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Princess Augusta, Marianne North and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Princess Augusta (1719-1772) and Marianne North (1830-1890) and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Greater London, Registered Grade I.

Princess Augusta was 17 when she married Frederick, Prince of Wales, son of George II, but it was only after her husband died that Augusta acquired the independence to pursue her own interests.

Frederick had begun a collection of exotic plants at Kew and under the care of the Dowager Princess, the gardens at Kew were developed further and extended. Lord Bute and Rev Stephen Hales, well-known botanists, helped Augusta: Bute introduced William Chambers to Augusta and he was commissioned to design the Pagoda, the Orangery and the Great Stove, the Temple of the Sun and the Mosque. Augusta began the Physic and Exotic Garden in about 1759. Exotic plants and trees were sent to Augusta from abroad and by 1768 the herbaceous collection had over 2,700 species. The legacy of Augusta's plant collection is kept in a special area of Kew Gardens and planted out in strict Linnaean order and each plant labelled. In 1987 Princess Diana opened the Princess of Wales Conservatory named to commemorate her predecessor-to-title, Augusta.

Cultivated flowers painted in Jamaica by Marianne North
Cultivated flowers painted in Jamaica by Marianne North © RBG Kew

Marianne North was a painter and botanist who travelled extensively painting the plants she encountered. Some of these plants were previously undiscovered and one genus and four new species were named in her honour. She travelled alone, displaying great independence of mind, visiting Canada, America, Brazil and Jamaica. Between 1873 and 1879 Marianne travelled to Japan, Borneo, Java, and India and Ceylon.

The Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens
The Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens © RBG Kew

She displayed her pictures at Kew Gardens in a gallery designed by her friend James Fergusson. Financed by herself, she commissioned a catalogue and the gallery opened in 1882. Visitors were able to see the exotic plants painted in their settings around the world. There are 832 paintings, many of which are on display in her gallery, now the Marianne North Gallery, a Grade II listed building.

Marianne North
Marianne North (source Wikimedia Commons)
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